NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
MAUREEN ALMOND: TAILOR TACKS
Mudfog
c/o Arts Development
The Stables
Stewart Park
The Grove
Marton
Middlesbrough
TS7 8AR
UK
ISBN 1 899503 35 8
5.95

MAUREEN ALMOND: OYSTER BABY
Biscuit Publishing
PO Box 123
Washington
NE37 2YW
UK
ISBN 1 903914 09 4
5.99

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MAUREEN ALMOND: TAILOR TACKS

This is Maureen Almond's first full length collection, and suggests that we will hear her name again. Neatly produced, TAILOR TACKS is divided into sections with titles which give an idea of the most common themes: GIRL TALK, TAILOR TACKS, EDEN and RHIEW (in Wales). The tone is generally conversational, lines flowing one into another, so that it is difficult to select quotations without giving whole stanzas, as in the poems WHAT COLOUR WOULD HE BE? or THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE A PAINTER.

There are conciser, more memorable lines, however, as in CUP:

	...And since her keen

	touch dulled, she's found polystyrene inviting
	enough. It squeaks against her skin but steams
	hotly into her face while she's biting.
Many of the poems are related to personal themes - sometimes too much so, though at others the tone is convincingly reflective or plaintive, as in TUNES ON A COMB. Social comment can be found too, however:
	KING COAL

	Old King Coal
	gave his word to you all
	and his solemn word he gave.
	He called for your wives
	and he called for your sons
	and he called for you over the waves.
In all, this is an interesting collection. One minor point, though; I found the (computer generated?) images at the beginning of each section trivialised the poems they introduced.

reviewer: Pauline Kirk.
MAUREEN ALMOND: OYSTER BABY

Chatty, harmlessly brazen poems about middle-aged loves and fancies, sometimes with a slightly grating classical background or in response to paintings and sculptures and such following visits to Newcastle's Hatton Gallery. MELENCOLIA is an example of this theme:

       I'm thinking creatively
       about how to balance the fire
       of your old age with the water of mine.
A cleverly-executed poem is EURYDICE THE SECOND which describes how a latter-day Orpheus loses Eurydice in the rush and confusion of the Piccadilly Line. The poems have a jaunty cheeky ease of expression, and deal honestly and chirpily with the trials and tribulations of everyday life; there is an awkward yet imaginative and comic fusing of not overly-abrasive Northern grit with at times Roman/Greek gods, heroes and myths, and other times youthful or childhood memories. A few poems recall the poet's Catholic upbringing, such as TWO LEFT FEET:
       We just went to Mass every day,
       boys with bared heads, girls covered,
       and never ate meat on Fridays.
       We fasted to fainting point for Communion,
       gave our badness to Father,
       and went home certain.
The poems are punchy and breezy, though they could do with a little pruning and often fizzle out with rather too pat, nicely-trimmed endings. A good example of her style and verve is SPINNING WITH MICHAEL JACKSON:
       Tonight I'm the stunner, the tart,
       the killer you like to sing about.
       I've painted my lips deep crimson,
       to highlight my weekend pout.
PAN'S SONG recalls youthful love from horny old age:
       That music we used to make together,
       do you remember,
       in the long grass?
 
        I'd split a thin blade,
        stretch it between my thumbs,
        whistle our love through the gap.
These are light, lateral poems accumulating disparate images, without worrying too much about a central core of meaning. Throwaway, prosaic lines mingle with deftly-drawn tight images. There is a clever little poem, ECHO, where content, style and tone complement each other very neatly:
       Look in the mirror again,
       it could be me disturbing your hair,
       or just a rumour, a whisper on your skin.
A lot of poems dwell a great deal on loss of body-shape and youthful skin texture, as in HANGOVER, where again there is a wallowing in drowsy middle-aged sexual longing:
       Fragile as a bag of bottles,
       I think of Romania
        days I was well corked
       and had the neck for anything.
Middle-aged self-questioning and erotic memories of youth, comically juxtaposed with the present's flabby and hoary desires, are shown in SOMETHING:
       Beautiful for a brief period of time
       I am an object in glass,
       a body of lies,
       drinking vainly from Hebe's cup.
The poet is obsessed with her greatest lost love, namely her youthful body, as in GRASSHOPPER:
       Children of the rosy-fingered Sixties,
       we had the eternal youth, Cliff
       and his ever livin' doll,
       flat stomachs and slim hips.
In OYSTER BABY she tells her ageing lover:
       Watch this space while I jettison fat,
       let my hair down, get contact lenses,
       have a nip, a tuck, a lift here and there.
       You won't even know what's hit you.
To some extent the tenor of these poems could give female middle age a bad name, or at least lead to the recognition that sexually-fixated oldies can be just as self-aware, amusing and indeed egotistically tiresome as teenagers.

reviewer: Alan Hardy.